AUGUSTA — Police Chief Robert Gregoire, for the first time since a September 2014 motorcycle accident that nearly killed him and left him unable to move his arms and legs, walked up to the lectern to speak at a City Council meeting Thursday.

The emotional moment came as Gregoire rose to speak on the otherwise routine business of asking the council to authorize the acceptance of a gun seized by police as part of a criminal investigation.

Leaning forward in his wheelchair, and surrounded and carefully watched by his wife, Cathy, Deputy Police Chief Jared Mills, and fire Chief Roger Audette, Gregoire stood and, using a walker, made his way up to the lectern.

“Bob Gregoire, police chief,” he said, smiling, as he took the microphone.

Councilors and all audience members in council chambers rose, too, to give him a standing ovation following the unexpected moment.

“We’re happy to see you on your feet, chief,” said Cecil Munson, at-large councilor.

Gregoire responded, “No happier than me, councilor.”

Gregoire returned to work, in a powered wheelchair, in January of last year following the accident. He has worked to rehabilitate and has regained motion, progressively, all the while continuing to work as police chief.

City Manager William Bridgeo recalled Gregoire being in the hospital, paralyzed from the neck down and on a ventilator after the accident. Bridgeo said the chief was so badly injured the thought, at the time, was he would be fortunate to be able to use a wheelchair, forget about walking.

“Through true grit, he was back on the job in January,” Bridgeo said of Gregoire. “There hasn’t been a day Bob hasn’t been going full steam.”

Bridgeo said Gregoire mentioned to him he wanted to walk up to the lectern at Thursday’s meeting.

Bridgeo congratulated Gregoire, not just for making such great strides in his rehabilitation, but also, he said, “for the example he sets for so many people struggling with a handicap, and who may lose hope. And for showing that anything is possible.”

After the meeting, Gregoire said it was the first time he’d stood and walked in public, though he had already done so during therapy sessions.

“It felt good to be up,” Gregoire said.

He credited the support of his wife, family, friends and co-workers for supporting him and providing a positive environment to help in his recovery. He also said his therapist, Kristen Johnson, who worked with him at MaineGeneral Medical Center, was wonderful and a miracle worker.

He said he also took inspiration from wounded veteran Travis Mills, and Winthrop’s Jaime Carnucci, from how they dealt with their injuries.

“With all the positive support around me, how could I not be positive?” Gregoire said. “I feel very fortunate to have a loving wife to support me, a strong family. And being welcomed back by the city provided a boost.”

Gregoire and his wife were on a charity motorcycle ride on Sept. 6, 2014, in Jay when a wet road caused the chief to lose control of his bike, which hit a soft shoulder and threw the Gregoires to the ground. Augusta Police Sgt. Christopher Shaw, following them, laid his motorcycle down trying to avoid that crash. The three were taken to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston. Robert Gregoire was first listed in critical condition, while Cathy Gregoire and Shaw were released within days.

Gregoire said his ability to move came back gradually. He said he had to learn how to walk again, as it didn’t come naturally. He said it was difficult, but he kept working at it.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj


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